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The Latest: Senate panel approves tax overhaul bill
Law & Politics | 2017/11/22 05:20
Vice President Mike Pence says "now the ball is in the Senate's court," after the House voted Thursday to approve a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's tax code.

At the Tax Foundation's 80th annual dinner in Washington, Pence said, "The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they're going to be a challenge." But he said, "we're going to get it done" before the end of the year. Pence was being awarded the foundation's distinguished service award.

Pence is endorsing the Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate as part of its own tax reform plan.

He said: "While we're at it, we're going to cut taxes on working Americans when we repeal the Obamacare individual mandate tax in this tax reform bill."

Vice President Mike Pence says "now the ball is in the Senate's court," after the House voted Thursday to approve a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's tax code.

At the Tax Foundation's 80th annual dinner in Washington, Pence said, "The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they're going to be a challenge." But he said, "we're going to get it done" before the end of the year. Pence was being awarded the foundation's distinguished service award.

Pence is endorsing the Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate as part of its own tax reform plan.

He said: "While we're at it, we're going to cut taxes on working Americans when we repeal the Obamacare individual mandate tax in this tax reform bill."


Free Speech Is Starting to Dominate the US Supreme Court's Agenda
Law & Politics | 2017/11/16 20:46
To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.


Court gives go-ahead for minimum alcohol price in Scotland
Law & Politics | 2017/11/15 04:46
Britain's Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland — a watershed moment for public health advocates alarmed at the level of abuse.

The court on Wednesday rejected the Scottish Whisky Association's challenge to the policy of setting a floor price per unit of alcohol. Health advocates argue that the increasing affordability of alcohol is leading to an increase in consumption.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted on Wednesday that she was "absolutely delighted" by the decision that she says will prove to be a "bold and necessary move to improve public health."

During the 1980s alcohol deaths in Scotland had been relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, but in 2006 drink-related deaths peaked at 1,546.


Michigan health chief back in court in Legionnaires' case
Law & Politics | 2017/11/02 23:23
Testimony is resuming in a criminal case against Michigan's health director, who is accused of keeping the public in the dark about Legionnaires' disease during the Flint water disaster.

Nick Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office. A judge must decide whether there is enough evidence to send him to trial. The case picks up again Wednesday.

Judge David Goggins hasn't heard testimony since Oct. 6. That's when urban affairs adviser Harvey Hollins said he told Gov. Rick Snyder about a Legionnaires' outbreak a few weeks before the governor made it public in January 2016.

Hollins' testimony contradicts what Snyder has said publicly. Nonetheless, the governor is sticking to his timeline.

Lawyers for Lyons say it's all irrelevant in the case against him.


3 bank customers in Germany fined for ignoring collapsed man
Law & Politics | 2017/09/17 23:57
A German court has fined three bank customers for failing to help an elderly man who collapsed in a bank branch and later died.

The Essen district court handed the defendants, a woman and two men, fines ranging from 2,400 to 3,600 euros ($2,865 to $4,300).

Police said surveillance camera footage showed four people walking past or over him as he lay on the floor. The fourth person faces separate proceedings.

The 83-year-old man collapsed as he used a banking terminal on a public holiday last October.

Only after about 20 minutes did another customer call emergency services. The man was taken to a hospital but died a few days later.

News agency dpa reported that the defendants testified Monday they had thought he was a sleeping homeless man.



Supreme Court Backs Dayton Veto of Legislature Budget
Law & Politics | 2017/09/09 22:47
The Minnesota Supreme Court says Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of the Legislature’s budget was constitutional.

The ruling Friday is counter to a lower-court ruling this summer that Dayton had acted unconstitutionally, but is not the last word in the case. The high court ordered the two sides to hire a mediator, by Tuesday, to resolve the dispute outside the courts.

The months-long legal battle arose this spring when Dayton line-item vetoed lawmakers’ $130 million operating budget. Dayton says he wanted to force lawmakers to rework costly tax breaks and other measures he signed into law, but the Legislature instead sued.

The state’s highest court was tilted firmly in Dayton’s favor. He had appointed four of the six justices presiding in the case.



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